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The 2010 CONFERENCE Overview

Mary Simmonds

Christopher Uren


Geoffrey Winch


Town, Romance and Conference (2010)


Last spring I read, for the second time, A Glastonbury Romance, anticipating it would be central to this year’s conference at the Wessex Hotel in Street just across the River Brue from Glastonbury.  As I did so many more facets and nuances were revealed to me than had been apparent upon my first reading, so I wasn’t at all surprised to have even more drawn out by our speakers.  First, Paul Weston on how the novel could become absorbed into one’s own psyche and how, in his particular case, it synchronized almost entirely with the town’s mythology.  Next Harald Fawkner asked us to consider the naturalness to be found in the various regenerative modes JCP employed to carry the story along; then Anthony O’Hear delivered what was an excellent reason for me to read the book yet again (but not immediately!) for surely I must grapple further with those points of philosophy the work contains.  It was Paul who also led our wanderings over Wearyall Hill (past long-horned cattle and short-shorn sheep) pointing out some of the significant landmarks that play their parts in the story - the group first gathering upon Pomparles Bridge.  I’m pleased to report, therefore, that the conference proved a fine success for me at least as I now look forward to reading that very special Romance once again.


It is some twenty years since my wife, myself and our border collie, Roger, first rented the annexe at Park House (the former vicarage) in Montacute for a self-catering holiday.  The holiday guide had indicated it was the former home of the Powys brothers of great literary merit.  These brothers I had not come across before. I made a note to keep an eye open for their books and soon possessed a copy of Maiden Castle; others followed quickly and my collection of books by and about the Powys circle began.  So when I was asked by JH if I would take responsibility for the book room at this year’s conference, I was pleased to accept.  It was a pleasure to be active in this small way especially at those times when trading was fairly brisk, a pleasure to see so many of those familiar books finding new homes.


Of course there were the other contributions to the conference which must be mentioned -- not least Stephen Powys Marks’ absorbing presentation of extracts from his four-times great-grandmother’s journals.  Caroline Powys’s dedication to the occupation of journalist (in its original sense) was most apparent -- and Stephen’s enthusiasm for research was manifest in his meticulous preparation of background papers.  Then Saturday evening’s entertainment -- extracts from Will Powys’s correspondence, commencing with his travelling to Africa, and from other family members who visited him. As ever, these were presented by a fine cast of readers, having been seamlessly assembled by CW and LdeB.  This was preceded by what for many was a remarkable event. I refer, naturally, to the short screen test for JCP’s and Bertrand Russell’s debate on marriage in 1929.  Suddenly JCP was among us -- animatedly talking to us; eyes, head, his whole body seeming to absorb vital energies from any invisible source he needed to call upon, while simultaneously delivering precise, illuminating words -- ribbons of words charged with absolute self-belief.  A fascinating few minutes indeed.

 From The Powys Society Newsletter, No 71, Nov 2010

Geoffrey Winch



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